Rumours of unrest quelled as Spurs fight for AVB

UNITIED KINGDOM - For those who came to bury Andre Villas-Boas, this was a wasted journey.

Seven days ago, his Tottenham Hotspur side had been trampled over by Manchester City.

One week on, they stood up and fought Manchester United toe-to-toe.

A tough 2-2 draw yesterday will not be enough to ease the pressure from the beleaguered Portuguese manager, but it might at least give him some breathing room to work on his team.

This was a game that neither team could describe as a point won.

The only real winners at White Hart Lane were Arsenal, now nine points clear of Man United and 10 ahead of Tottenham.

But there were positives for both managers. For Tottenham, it was the simple evidence of something that was missing at the Etihad: Backbone.

Villas-Boas surprised a few people with his team selection, opting for physical strength. Nacer Chadli returned to the line-up for the first time since Sept 1, Vladimir Chiriches and Moussa Dembele joined him there. The gamble paid off.

If it's true that Villas-Boas has lost the dressing room, he must have found it again during the week. His players fought for every ball from the start. They did not play like men who wanted to see the back of their manager.

Paulinho, wretched against City, was a renewed force. Aaron Lennon, still finding his fitness after a lengthy injury, neutralised Patrice Evra. It was a vast improvement from last week.

Reward came as early as the 18th minute through a Kyle Walker free-kick.

There are some men in defensive walls who can be criticised for a lack of courage, but none of them wear Man United shirts.

As one, the wall leapt into the air, every man stretching to put something in front of the ball.

What a shame then that Walker kept his shot low, skimming it underneath the rising studs and straight past an unsuspecting David de Gea.

But Walker's joy was shortlived. In the 32nd minute, Antonio Valencia whipped in a cross and Walker's eccentric flick found only Wayne Rooney, who made no mistake.

Rooney has been the success story of David Moyes' short reign and this match was no exception.

From the first whistle to the last, he tore around the pitch offering as much in defence as he did in attack. Where was this Rooney last season?

Unruffled, Tottenham redoubled their efforts and a ferocious blast from Sandro restored their lead.

Unfortunately, it was a lead they held for just three minutes.

Danny Welbeck, making his first start since United were themselves demolished by City in September, darted into the area and Hugo Lloris' hand clipped his trailing leg.

BOOS

Referee Mike Dean wasted little time in awarding the penalty and Rooney wasted little time in converting it. If Villas-Boas was hoping that this performance might restore the faith of the supporters, he was mistaken. His decision to withdraw Lennon was met with a furious chorus of boos. Clearly, the manager's road to redemption will not be easy.

There were "senior sources" discussing his future in the tabloids yesterday.

"Everybody at Tottenham wants Andre to do well," said the source. The source then claimed that Villas-Boas' previous experiences at Chelsea were leading him to, "see enemies where there weren't any". With friends like these...

Even as his superiors briefed against him, Villas-Boas kept his cool and fought for his job.

Yesterday, his team fought with him. He lives to manage another day.

Penalty was unfair

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas appealed for "respect" for his team's achievements this season, after they held Manchester United to a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane yesterday.

Wayne Rooney twice cancelled out Spurs leads, first after Kyle Walker had blasted in a low free-kick and then after a sumptuous strike from Sandro.

Villas-Boas felt United were handed a "very, very unfair" spot-kick in the second half, after Danny Welbeck went down under a challenge from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, giving them a second equaliser.

But he was overwhelmingly encouraged by Tottenham's response to last week's 6-0 defeat by Manchester City, which began with a midweek Europa League win against Tromso.

Villas-Boas said on BT Sport: "We had chances to win the game. I think we probably deserved to win the game and were a bit unlucky in the first half not to go 2-0 up.

"We had good intensity over 90 minutes. I think it was a very, very unfair penalty.

"To respond in this fashion against a team that put five past the second team in Germany (Bayer Leverkusen) was good for us. We showed great strength of character and played extremely well. "We are extremely happy with the performance, but not so much the result, because a win would have taken us above them, but it's a good response, not a bad result."

Villas-Boas has come under growing pressure to deliver positive results as his summer signings bed into the team.

Defeat at the Etihad Stadium ramped up that pressure, and led to talk of Villas-Boas fighting for his job.

OPTIMISM

"You can only look at the table to see the Premier League champions (United) are just one point from us," he said.

"You see there is obviously an agenda that goes against Tottenham's results.

"We have to do better. We have to bounce back and I think we did that in a great fashion today.

"There's great unity in the team to bounce back. When we do we'll be ever so close to the top again."

Pointing out they are through to the League Cup quarter-finals and the knock-out stage of the Europa League, he added: "At the moment, I think there should be some respect."

Rooney called the outcome "probably a fair result", although it left United nine points behind Arsenal.

"We're on a good run in the minute but we need to turn some of those draws into wins," Rooney said.

"Today it was a difficult game, Tottenham away. A point is probably a good result, a good point." - PA Sport.

npsports@sph.com.sg


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